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1.  Serum concentration of integrin-linked kinase in malignant pleural mesothelioma and after asbestos exposure† 
Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is an intracellular protein implicated in chronic inflammation and neoplastic transformation. In a recently accomplished pilot study, we showed that ILK can be detected in the serum of patients with benign and malignant chest diseases, including malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Interestingly, average serum ILK concentrations were 10 times higher in MPM patients when compared with the rest of the study population, and a diagnostic test solely based on serum ILK concentration could discriminate between MPM and non-MPM with considerable accuracy. This study aimed to investigate whether serum ILK concentration could also be used to discriminate between MPM and asbestos exposure only.
Using a self-developed sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we measured serum ILK concentrations in 101 MPM patients, and 96 asbestos-exposed, but healthy insulation workers. Seventy-three MPM patients had an epitheloid subtype (72.3%), and 42 had a Stage I or II disease (41.6%).
When compared with asbestos-exposed individuals, MPM patients of all clinical stages had significantly higher (mean ± standard deviation, median) serum ILK concentrations (10.7 ± 13.6, median 7 ng/ml vs 3.1 ± 4.6, median 1.4 ng/ml; P < 0.001). Among MPM patients, the serum ILK concentration was significantly higher at advanced disease stages III + IV than at early stages I + II (13.7 ± 15.9, median 8.5 ng/ml vs 6.7 ± 7.8, median 3.5 ng/ml; P = 0.02). Using serum ILK to discriminate between MPM patients and asbestos-exposed individuals yielded an area under the curve of 0.69 (95% confidence interval 0.63–0.76). The corresponding sensitivity and specificity for a cut-off of 4.49 ng/ml ILK are 61.4 and 80.2%, respectively.
These data show significant differences between MPM patients and asbestos-exposed but healthy individuals concerning their serum ILK concentration. Furthermore, since ILK levels are increased in advanced MPM stages in comparison with early MPM stages, we suggest evaluating its potential use as a marker of disease progression in MPM.
PMCID: PMC3619946  PMID: 23045294
Malignant pleural mesothelioma; Integrin-linked kinase; Asbestos exposure; Differential diagnosis; ELISA
2.  Extracellular signal regulated kinase 5: A potential therapeutic target for malignant mesotheliomas 
Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a devastating disease with a need for new treatment strategies. In the present study we demonstrated the importance of ERK5 in MM tumor growth and treatment.
Experimental Design
ERK5 as a target for MM therapy was verified using mesothelial and mesothelioma cell lines as well as by xenograft SCID mouse models.
We first showed that crocidolite asbestos activated ERK5 in LP9 cells and mesothelioma cell lines exhibit constitutive activation of ERK5. Addition of doxorubicin resulted in further activation of ERK5 in MM cells. ERK5 silencing increased DOX-induced cell death and DOX retention in MM cells. In addition, shERK5 MM lines exhibited both attenuated colony formation on soft agar and invasion of MM cells in vitro that could be related to modulation of gene expression linked to cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration/invasion and drug resistance as shown by microarray analysis. Most importantly, injection of shERK5 MM cell lines into SCID mice showed significant reduction in tumor growth using both subcutaneous and intraperitoneal models. Assessment of selected human cytokine profiles in peritoneal lavage fluid from IP shERK5 and control tumor-bearing mice showed that ERK5 was critical in regulation of various proinflammatory (RANTES/CCL5, MCP-1) and angiogenesis related (IL-8, VEGF) cytokines. Finally, use of doxorubicin and cisplatin in combination with ERK5 inhibition showed further reduction in tumor weight and volume in the IP model of tumor growth.
; ERK5 inhibition in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs is a beneficial strategy for combination therapy in MM patients.
PMCID: PMC3630261  PMID: 23446998
Malignant mesothelioma; asbestos; Mitogen activated protein kinases; Extracellular signal regulated kinase 5; Gene expression
3.  Biomarkers and prognostic factors for mesothelioma 
Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery  2012;1(4):449-456.
PMCID: PMC3741796  PMID: 23977535
4.  CARP-1 Functional Mimetics Are a Novel Class of Small Molecule Inhibitors of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e89146.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an asbestos-related thoracic malignancy that is characterized by late metastases, and resistance to therapeutic modalities. The toxic side-effects of MPM therapies often limit their clinical effectiveness, thus necessitating development of new agents to effectively treat and manage this disease in clinic. CARP-1 functional mimetics (CFMs) are a novel class of compounds that inhibit growth of diverse cancer cell types. Here we investigated MPM cell growth suppression by the CFMs and the molecular mechanisms involved. CFM-1, -4, and -5 inhibited MPM cell growth, in vitro, in part by stimulating apoptosis. Apoptosis by CFM-4 involved activation of pro-apoptotic stress-activated protein kinases (SAPKs) p38 and JNK, elevated CARP-1 expression, cleavage of PARP1, and loss of the oncogene c-myc as well as mitotic cyclin B1. Treatments of MPM cells with CFM-4 resulted in depletion of NF-κB signaling inhibitor ABIN1 and Inhibitory κB (IκB)α and β, while increasing expression of pro-apoptotic death receptor (DR) 4 protein. CFM-4 enhanced expression of serine-phosphorylated podoplanin and cleavage of vimetin. CFMs also attenuated biological properties of the MPM cells by blocking their abilities to migrate, form colonies in suspension, and invade through the matrix-coated membranes. Both podoplanin and vimentin regulate processes of cell motility and invasion, and their expression often correlates with metastatic disease, and poor prognosis. The fact that phosphorylation of serines in the cytoplasmic domain of podoplanin interferes with processes of cellular motility, CFM-4-dependent elevated phosphorylated podoplanin and cleavage of vimentin underscore a metastasis inhibitory property of these compounds, and suggest that CFMs and/or their future analogs have potential as anti-MPM agents.
PMCID: PMC3943785  PMID: 24598827
5.  BAP1 and Cancer 
Nature reviews. Cancer  2013;13(3):153-159.
BAP1 is a deubiquitylase that is found associated with multi-protein complexes that regulate key cellular pathways, including the cell cycle, cellular differentiation, cell death, gluconeogenesis and the DNA damage response (DDR). Recent findings indicate that germline BAP1 mutations cause a novel cancer syndrome, characterized, at least in the affected families studied so far, by the onset at an early age of benign melanocytic skin tumours with mutated BAP1, and later in life by a high incidence of mesothelioma, uveal melanoma, cutaneous melanoma and possibly additional cancers.
PMCID: PMC3792854  PMID: 23550303
6.  Fibulin-3 as a Blood and Effusion Biomarker for Pleural Mesothelioma 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;367(15):1417-1427.
New biomarkers are needed to detect pleural mesothelioma at an earlier stage and to individualize treatment strategies. We investigated whether fibulin-3 in plasma and pleural effusions could meet sensitivity and specificity criteria for a robust biomarker.
We measured fibulin-3 levels in plasma (from 92 patients with mesothelioma, 136 asbestos-exposed persons without cancer, 93 patients with effusions not due to mesothelioma, and 43 healthy controls), effusions (from 74 patients with mesothelioma, 39 with benign effusions, and 54 with malignant effusions not due to mesothelioma), or both. A blinded validation was subsequently performed. Tumor tissue was examined for fibulin-3 by immunohistochemical analysis, and levels of fibulin-3 in plasma and effusions were measured with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Plasma fibulin-3 levels did not vary according to age, sex, duration of asbestos exposure, or degree of radiographic changes and were significantly higher in patients with pleural mesothelioma (105±7 ng per milliliter in the Detroit cohort and 113±8 ng per milliliter in the New York cohort) than in asbestos-exposed persons without mesothelioma (14±1 ng per milliliter and 24±1 ng per milliliter, respectively; P<0.001). Effusion fibulin-3 levels were significantly higher in patients with pleural mesothelioma (694±37 ng per milliliter in the Detroit cohort and 636±92 ng per milliliter in the New York cohort) than in patients with effusions not due to mesothelioma (212±25 and 151±23 ng per milliliter, respectively; P<0.001). Fibulin-3 preferentially stained tumor cells in 26 of 26 samples. In an overall comparison of patients with and those without mesothelioma, the receiver-operating-characteristic curve for plasma fibulin-3 levels had a sensitivity of 96.7% and a specificity of 95.5% at a cutoff value of 52.8 ng of fibulin-3 per milliliter. In a comparison of patients with early-stage mesothelioma with asbestos-exposed persons, the sensitivity was 100% and the specificity was 94.1% at a cutoff value of 46.0 ng of fibulin-3 per milliliter. Blinded validation revealed an area under the curve of 0.87 for plasma specimens from 96 asbestos-exposed persons as compared with 48 patients with mesothelioma.
Plasma fibulin-3 levels can distinguish healthy persons with exposure to asbestos from patients with mesothelioma. In conjunction with effusion fibulin-3 levels, plasma fibulin-3 levels can further differentiate mesothelioma effusions from other malignant and benign effusions. (Funded by the Early Detection Research Network, National Institutes of Health, and others.)
PMCID: PMC3761217  PMID: 23050525
7.  Protumorigenic Role of HAPLN1 and Its IgV Domain in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma 
Tumor extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a crucial role in cancer progression mediating and transforming host-tumor interactions. Targeting the ECM is becoming an increasingly promising therapeutic approach in cancer treatment. We find that one of the ECM proteins, HAPLN1, is overexpressed in the majority of mesotheliomas. This study was designed to characterize the protumorigenic role of HAPLN1 in mesothelioma.
Experimental Design
Overexpression of HAPLN1was assessed and validated on a large set of normal/mesothelioma specimens on the RNA and protein levels. We also analyzed DNA copy number alterations in the HAPLN1 genomic locus using the array-based comparative genomic hybridization representational oligonucleotide microarray analysis tool. Tumorigenic activities of the HAPLN1 domains were evaluated in vitro on mesothelioma cells transfected with HAPLN1-expressing constructs.
We found that HAPLN1 is 23-fold overexpressed in stage Imesothelioma and confirmed it for 76% samples (n = 53) on RNA and 97% (n = 40) on protein levels. The majority of lung cancers showed no differential expression of HAPLN1. Analysis of DNA copy number alterations identified recurrent gain in the 5q14.3 HAPLN1 locus in ~27% of tumors. Noteworthy, high expression of HAPLN1negatively correlated with time to progression (P = 0.05, log-rank test) and overall survival (P = 0.006). Proliferation, motility, invasion, and soft-agar colony formation assays on mesothelioma cells overexpressing full-length HAPLN1 or its functional domains strongly supported the protumorigenic role of HAPLN1 and its SP-IgV domain.
Overexpression of HAPLN1 and its SP-IgV domain increases tumorigenic properties of mesothelioma. Thus, targeting the SP-IgV domain may be one of the therapeutic approaches in cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3761224  PMID: 19351750
8.  Optical Detection of Buccal Epithelial Nanoarchitectural Alterations in Patients Harboring Lung Cancer: Implications for Screening 
Cancer research  2010;70(20):7748-7754.
We have recently developed a novel optical technology, partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, which is exquisitely sensitive to the nanoarchitectural manifestation of the genetic/epigenetic alterations of field carcinogenesis. Our approach was to screen for lung cancer by assessing the cheek cells based on emerging genetic/epigenetic data which suggests that the buccal epithelium is altered in lung field carcinogenesis. We performed PWS analysis from microscopically normal buccal epithelial brushings from smokers with and without lung cancer (n = 135). The PWS parameter, disorder strength of cell nanoarchitecture (Ld), was markedly (>50%) elevated in patients harboring lung cancer compared with neoplasia-free smokers. The performance characteristic was excellent with an area under the receiver operator characteristic curve of >0.80 and was equivalent for both disease stage (early versus late) and histologies (small cell versus non–small cell lung cancers). An independent data set validated the findings with only a minimal degradation of performance characteristics. Our results offer proof of concept that buccal PWS may potentially herald a minimally intrusive prescreening test that could be integral to the success of lung cancer population screening programs.
PMCID: PMC3703950  PMID: 20924114
9.  Cancer cell secretion of the DAMP protein HMGB1 supports progression in malignant mesothelioma 
Cancer Research  2012;72(13):3290-3301.
Human malignant mesothelioma (MM) is an aggressive and highly lethal cancer that is believed to be caused by chronic exposure to asbestos and erionite. Prognosis for this cancer is generally poor due to late-stage diagnosis and resistance to current conventional therapies. The damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) protein HMGB1 has been implicated previously in transformation of mesothelial cells. Here we show that HMGB1 establishes an autocrine circuit in MM cells that influences their proliferation and survival. MM cells strongly expressed HMGB1 and secreted it at high levels in vitro. Accordingly, HMGB1 levels in MM patient sera were higher than that found in healthy individuals. The motility, survival and anchorage-independent growth of HMGB1-secreting MM cells was inhibited in vitro by treatment with monoclonal antibodies directed against HMGB1 or against the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), a putative HMGB1 receptor. HMGB1 inhibition in vivo reduced the growth of MM xenografts in SCID mice and extended host survival. Taken together, our findings indicate that MM cells rely on HMGB1 and they offer a preclinical proof of principle that antibody-mediated ablation of HMBG1 is sufficient to elicit therapeutic activity, suggesting a novel therapeutic approach for MM treatment.
PMCID: PMC3389268  PMID: 22552293
HMGB1; mesothelioma; inflammation; biomarker; therapy
10.  Serum Mesothelin for Diagnosing Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;30(13):1541-1549.
Mesothelin is currently considered the best available serum biomarker of malignant pleural mesothelioma. To examine the diagnostic accuracy and use of serum mesothelin in early diagnosis, we performed an individual patient data (IPD) meta-analysis.
The literature search identified 16 diagnostic studies of serum mesothelin, measured with the Mesomark enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. IPD of 4,491 individuals were collected, including several control groups and 1,026 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelin levels were standardized for between-study differences and age, after which the diagnostic accuracy and the factors affecting it were examined with receiver operating characteristic (ROC) regression analysis.
At a common diagnostic threshold of 2.00 nmol/L, the sensitivities and specificities of mesothelin in the different studies ranged widely from 19% to 68% and 88% to 100%, respectively. This heterogeneity can be explained by differences in study population, because type of control group, mesothelioma stage, and histologic subtype significantly affected the diagnostic accuracy. The use of mesothelin in early diagnosis was evaluated by differentiating 217 patients with stage I or II epithelioid and biphasic mesothelioma from 1,612 symptomatic or high-risk controls. The resulting area under the ROC curve was 0.77 (95% CI, 0.73 to 0.81). At 95% specificity, mesothelin displayed a sensitivity of 32% (95% CI, 26% to 40%).
In patients suspected of having mesothelioma, a positive blood test for mesothelin at a high-specificity threshold is a strong incentive to urge further diagnostic steps. However, the poor sensitivity of mesothelin clearly limits its added value to early diagnosis and emphasizes the need for further biomarker research.
PMCID: PMC3383122  PMID: 22412141
11.  Correction: Withaferin A Inhibits the Proteasome Activity in Mesothelioma In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):10.1371/annotation/1f7766a6-35da-4d34-b07b-4c06667bdbec.
PMCID: PMC3580221
12.  Malignant Mesothelioma: Facts, Myths and Hypotheses 
Journal of cellular physiology  2012;227(1):44-58.
Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a neoplasm arising from mesothelial cells lining the pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial cavities. Over 20 million people in the US are at risk of developing MM due to asbestos exposure. MM mortality rates are estimated to increase by 5-10% per year in most industrialized countries until about 2020. The incidence of MM in men has continued to rise during the past 50 years, while the incidence in women appears largely unchanged. It is estimated that about 50-80% of pleural MM in men and 20-30% in women developed in individuals whose history indicates asbestos exposure(s) above that expected from most background settings. While rare for women, about 30% of peritoneal mesothelioma in men has been associated with exposure to asbestos. Erionite is a potent carcinogenic mineral fiber capable of causing both pleural and peritoneal MM. Since erionite is considerably less widespread than asbestos, the number of MM cases associated with erionite exposure is smaller. Asbestos induces DNA alterations mostly by inducing mesothelial cells and reactive macrophages to secrete mutagenic oxygen and nitrogen species. In addition, asbestos carcinogenesis is linked to the chronic inflammatory process caused by the deposition of a sufficient number of asbestos fibers and the consequent release of pro-inflammatory molecules, especially HMGB-1, the master switch that starts the inflammatory process, and TNF-alpha by macrophages and mesothelial cells. Genetic predisposition, radiation exposure and viral infection are co-factors that can alone or together with asbestos and erionite cause MM.
PMCID: PMC3143206  PMID: 21412769
Mesothelioma; Genetics; Asbestos; Erionite; SV40
13.  An Extracellular Signal–Regulated Kinase 2 Survival Pathway Mediates Resistance of Human Mesothelioma Cells to Asbestos-Induced Injury 
We hypothesized that normal human mesothelial cells acquire resistance to asbestos-induced toxicity via induction of one or more epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)–linked survival pathways (phosphoinositol-3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin and extracellular signal–regulated kinase [ERK] 1/2) during simian virus 40 (SV40) transformation and carcinogenesis. Both isolated HKNM-2 mesothelial cells and a telomerase-immortalized mesothelial line (LP9/TERT-1) were more sensitive to crocidolite asbestos toxicity than an SV40 Tag-immortalized mesothelial line (MET5A) and malignant mesothelioma cell lines (HMESO and PPM Mill). Whereas increases in phosphorylation of AKT (pAKT) were observed in MET5A cells in response to asbestos, LP9/TERT-1 cells exhibited dose-related decreases in pAKT levels. Pretreatment with an EGFR phosphorylation or mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 inhibitor abrogated asbestos-induced phosphorylated ERK (pERK) 1/2 levels in both LP9/TERT-1 and MET5A cells as well as increases in pAKT levels in MET5A cells. Transient transfection of small interfering RNAs targeting ERK1, ERK2, or AKT revealed that ERK1/2 pathways were involved in cell death by asbestos in both cell lines. Asbestos-resistant HMESO or PPM Mill cells with high endogenous levels of ERKs or AKT did not show dose-responsive increases in pERK1/ERK1, pERK2/ERK2, or pAKT/AKT levels by asbestos. However, small hairpin ERK2 stable cell lines created from both malignant mesothelioma lines were more sensitive to asbestos toxicity than shERK1 and shControl lines, and exhibited unique, tumor-specific changes in endogenous cell death–related gene expression. Our results suggest that EGFR phosphorylation is causally linked to pERK and pAKT activation by asbestos in normal and SV40 Tag–immortalized human mesothelial cells. They also indicate that ERK2 plays a role in modulating asbestos toxicity by regulating genes critical to cell injury and survival that are differentially expressed in human mesotheliomas.
PMCID: PMC3262687  PMID: 21454801
mesothelioma; asbestos; toxicity; epidermal growth factor receptor; protein kinase B/AKT
14.  Telomerase activity in pleural malignant mesotheliomas 
New treatments are needed for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), which currently has a poor prognosis. Cellular immortalisation, one of the hallmarks of cancer, depends on the activity of a telomere length maintenance mechanism (TMM) – either telomerase or alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). The TMMs are widely regarded as potential targets for cancer therapies and telomerase inhibitors have entered clinical trials. The aim of this study was to determine what proportion of MPMs use ALT and/or telomerase. Forty-three MPMs from 42 patients were examined for telomerase and ALT activity. Telomerase activity was detected by immunoaffinity purification followed by the telomere repeat amplification protocol (TRAP), and ALT activity was determined by the C-circle assay and by assessing telomere lengths using terminal restriction fragment analyses. We found that 43 of 43 MPMs were telomerase-positive[+] and ALT-negative[−]. Therefore, to investigate whether pleural mesothelial cells are unusually susceptible to activation of telomerase, we examined activation of the TMMs in an in vitro model of cellular immortalisation, in which normal pleural mesothelial cells were transduced with simian virus 40 (SV40) oncogenes. We found that normal mesothelial cells were TMM-negative, and that expression of the SV40 oncogenes did not directly activate telomerase or ALT. Immortalisation, which in this experimental system results from additional genetic changes that have not yet been identified, was accompanied by activation of either TMM. Therefore, pleural mesothelial cells are capable of activating either TMM in vitro, and the observation that 100% of MPMs were telomerase[+] suggests that there are factors in vivo that select for telomerase activity during oncogenesis of this tumour type. We conclude that MPM is a tumour that could be considered for anti-telomerase therapy.
PMCID: PMC3135747  PMID: 21277646
Malignant mesothelioma; Telomerase; Alternative lengthening of telomeres; Immortalisation; Telomere maintenance mechanism; Pleura
15.  Withaferin A Inhibits the Proteasome Activity in Mesothelioma In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41214.
The medicinal plant Withania somnifera has been used for over centuries in Indian Ayurvedic Medicine to treat a wide spectrum of disorders. Withaferin A (WA), a bioactive compound that is isolated from this plant, has anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, anti-angiogenic, and anti-cancer properties. Here we investigated malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) suppressive effects of WA and the molecular mechanisms involved. WA inhibited growth of the murine as well as patient-derived MPM cells in part by decreasing the chymotryptic activity of the proteasome that resulted in increased levels of ubiquitinated proteins and pro-apoptotic proteasome target proteins (p21, Bax, IκBα). WA suppression of MPM growth also involved elevated apoptosis as evidenced by activation of pro-apoptotic p38 stress activated protein kinase (SAPK) and caspase-3, elevated levels of pro-apoptotic Bax protein and cleavage of poly-(ADP-ribose)-polymerase (PARP). Our studies including gene-array based analyses further revealed that WA suppressed a number of cell growth and metastasis-promoting genes including c-myc. WA treatments also stimulated expression of the cell cycle and apoptosis regulatory protein (CARP)-1/CCAR1, a novel transducer of cell growth signaling. Knock-down of CARP-1, on the other hand, interfered with MPM growth inhibitory effects of WA. Intra-peritoneal administration of 5 mg/kg WA daily inhibited growth of murine MPM cell-derived tumors in vivo in part by inhibiting proteasome activity and stimulating apoptosis. Together our in vitro and in vivo studies suggest that WA suppresses MPM growth by targeting multiple pathways that include blockage of proteasome activity and stimulation of apoptosis, and thus holds promise as an anti-MPM agent.
PMCID: PMC3422308  PMID: 22912669
16.  Increased Efficacy of Doxorubicin Delivered in Multifunctional Microparticles for Mesothelioma Therapy 
New and effective treatment strategies are desperately needed for malignant mesothelioma (MM), an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis. We have shown previously that acid-prepared mesoporous microspheres (APMS) are nontoxic after intrapleural or intraperitoneal (IP) administration to rodents. The purpose here was to evaluate the utility of APMS in delivering chemotherapeutic drugs to human MM cells in vitro and in two mouse xenograft models of MM. Uptake and release of doxorubicin (DOX) alone or loaded in APMS (APMS-DOX) were evaluated in MM cells. MM cell death and gene expression linked to DNA damage/repair were also measured in vitro. In two SCID mouse xenograft models, mice received saline, APMS, DOX, or APMS-DOX injected directly into subcutaneous (SC) MM tumors or injected IP after development of human MMs peritoneally. Other mice received DOX intravenously (IV) via tail vein injections. In comparison to DOX alone, APMS-DOX enhanced intracellular uptake of DOX, MM death, and expression of GADD34 and TP73. In the SC MM model, 3X weekly SC injections of APMS-DOX or DOX alone significantly inhibited tumor volumes, and systemic DOX administration was lethal. In mice developing IP MMs, significant (p<0.05) inhibition of mesenteric tumor numbers, weight, and volume was achieved using IP administration of APMS-DOX at one-third the DOX concentration required after IP injections of DOX alone. These results suggest APMS are efficacious for the localized delivery of lower effective DOX concentrations in MM, and represent a novel means of treating intracavitary tumors.
PMCID: PMC3017728  PMID: 20830711
Microparticles; Mesoporous silica; Mesothelioma; Doxorubicin; Intracavitary tumors
17.  Germline BAP1 mutations predispose to malignant mesothelioma 
Nature genetics  2011;43(10):1022-1025.
Because only a small fraction of asbestos-exposed individuals develop malignant mesothelioma1, and because mesothelioma clustering is observed in some families1, we searched for genetic predisposing factors. We discovered germline mutations in BAP1 (BRCA1-associated protein 1) in two families with a high incidence of mesothelioma. Somatic alterations affecting BAP1 were observed in familial mesotheliomas, indicating biallelic inactivation. Besides mesothelioma, some BAP1 mutation carriers developed uveal melanoma. Germline BAP1 mutations were also found in two of 26 sporadic mesotheliomas: both patients with mutant BAP1 were previously diagnosed with uveal melanoma. Truncating mutations and aberrant BAP1 expression were common in sporadic mesotheliomas without germline mutations. These results reveal a BAP1-related cancer syndrome characterized by mesothelioma and uveal melanoma. We hypothesize that other cancers may also be involved, and that mesothelioma predominates upon asbestos exposure. These findings will help identify individuals at high risk of mesothelioma who could be targeted for early intervention.
PMCID: PMC3184199  PMID: 21874000
18.  ERK2 is Essential for the Growth of Human Epithelioid Malignant Mesotheliomas 
Members of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) family may have distinct roles in the development of cell injury and repair, differentiation and carcinogenesis. Here we show, using a synthetic small molecule MEK1/2 inhibitor (U0126) and RNA silencing of ERK1 and 2, comparatively, that ERK2 is critical to transformation and homeostasis of human epithelioid malignant mesotheliomas (MMs), asbestos-induced tumors with a poor prognosis. Whereas MM cell (HMESO) lines stably transfected with shERK1 or shERK2 both exhibited significant decreases in cell proliferation in vitro, injection of shERK2 cells, and not shERK1 cells, into immunocompromised SCID mice showed significant attenuated tumor growth in comparison to shControl cells. Inhibition of migration, invasion, and colony formation occurred in shERK2 MM cells in vitro, suggesting multiple roles of ERK2 in neoplasia. Microarray and qRT-PCR analyses revealed gene expression that was significantly increased (CASP1, TRAF1, FAS) or decreased (SEMA3E, RPS6KA2, EGF, BCL2L1) in shERK2-transfected MM cells in contrast to shControl-transfected MM cells. Most striking decreases were observed in mRNA levels of Semaphorin 3 (SEMA3E), a candidate tumor suppressor gene linked to inhibition of angiogenesis. These studies demonstrate a key role of ERK2 in novel gene expression critical to the development of epithelioid MMs. After injection of sarcomatoid human MM (PPMMill) cells into SCID mice, both shERK1 and shERK2 lines showed significant decreased tumor growth, suggesting heterogeneous effects of ERKs in individual MMs.
PMCID: PMC3071888  PMID: 21710492
Asbestos; mesothelioma; extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK1/2); Mitogen activated protein kinases; gene expression
19.  Onconase Mediated NFKβ Down-Regulation in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma 
Oncogene  2011;30(24):2767-2777.
Treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) with Ranpirnase (Onconase) results in disruption of protein translation and cell apoptosis. We hypothesize that Onconase acts via down regulation of nuclear factor kappa B (NFKβ) by specific microRNAs (miRNA) and that interference of this pathway could have implications for MPM resistance to chemotherapy.
Experimental Design
Three immortalized MPM cell lines (H2959, H2373, and H2591) were exposed to Onconase at 0–20 µg/mL. Cell counts were measured at 48 and 72 hours. Gene expression in miRNA-enriched RNA was validated by RT-PCR. The functional implications of miRNA expression were evaluated by transfecting miRNA mimics or inhibitors into MPM cell lines, and performing Matrigel™ invasion, cell proliferation, soft agar colony formation, and scratch closure assays. Effects on NFKβ expression and downstream targets including ABC transporters, BCL-xl, and IAP were assessed by RT-PCR and Western Blotting.
Treatment with 20µg/mL of Onconase significantly decreased cell count and invasion. Hsa-miR-17* was significantly upregulated and hsa-miR-30c significantly down-regulated by Onconase treatment in all cell lines. Forced expression of hsa-miR-17* mimic and hsa-miR-30c inhibitor each significantly decreased functional activity of Onconase in all assays. NFKB1(p50) expression and downstream targets were also decreased with Onconase treatment as well as with forced expression miRNA mimic and inhibitors.
Onconase treatment caused a significant decrease in cell proliferation, invasion, and in expression of certain miRNAs. Recapitulation of the resultant miRNA expression pattern with hsa-miR-17* mimic and hsa-miR-30c inhibitor resulted in downregulation of NFKB1 and reduced malignant behavior in functional assays. Thus, Onconase likely exerts its anti-tumor effect through these miRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3118086  PMID: 21317924
Mesothelioma; microRNA; multidrug resistance
20.  Lung Cancer Osteopontin Isoforms Exhibit Angiogenic Functional Heterogeneity 
Osteopontin (OPN) is a multifunctional phosphoprotein with an important but poorly understood role in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) pathogenesis. We hypothesize that OPN isoforms (OPNa, OPNb, and OPNc) have divergent roles in NSCLC angiogenesis and divergent impact on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secretion.
We examined mRNA expression using RT-PCR primers for three OPN isoforms in NSCLC and immortalized bronchial epithelial cell lines, and correlated expression with OPN secretion into media detected by ELISA. Angiogenic properties conferred by OPN isoforms were evaluated by transfecting cDNA plasmids specific to each isoform and controls into NSCLC cell lines, H153 and H358 (low endogenous OPN) and A549 and H460 (high endogenous OPN) and analyzing conditioned media on a bovine capillary endothelial (BCE) platform and measuring VEGF levels by ELISA.
OPNa mRNA expression correlated with OPN secretion in cell lines (r=0.912,p=0.0006). OPNa overexpression significantly increased tubule length compared to controls, OPNb had a similar, but less pronounced effect, while OPNc significantly decreased tubule length compared to controls in each cell line. OPNa overexpression was associated with significant increases in VEGF secretion, while OPNb had no effect and OPNc overexpression was associated with significant decreases in VEGF compared to controls in each cell line.
We demonstrated divergent effects of OPN isoforms on NSCLC angiogenesis and VEGF secretion. OPNa overexpression was associated with increased BCE tubule length and VEGF secretion, while OPNc is associated with decreases in both. These findings may lead to therapeutic strategies for selective isoform inhibition in NSCLC.
Osteopontin is a multifunctional phosphoprotein with an important but poorly understood role in non-small cell lung cancer pathogenesis. The role of the three human isoforms has not been previously reported. We demonstrate that individual osteopontin isoforms have divergent effects on non-small cell lung cancer angiogenesis with associated changes in VEGF.
PMCID: PMC2875279  PMID: 19818970
21.  Tissue tropism of SV40 transformation of human cells: role of the viral regulatory region and of cellular oncogenes 
Genes & cancer  2010;1(10):1008-1020.
SV40 has been detected prevalently in a limited panel of human tumors: mesothelioma, bone and brain tumors and lymphoma. These are the same tumor types that are specifically induced by SV40 when injected into hamsters, a finding that has raised concerns about the possible pathogenic role of SV40 in humans. Two different SV40 isolates differing in the number of 72 bp elements in the virus regulatory region, archetypal SV40 (1ESV40) which contains one 72 bp and non-archetypal (wtSV40) which contains two 72 bp, have been detected in human tumors. 1ESV40 has been prevalently detected in brain tumors; wtSV40 prevalently in mesothelioma. The apparent different cell tropism could be related to the virus (i.e., possibly to the number of 72 bp elements) and to different expression of cellular genes, known to play a critical role in SV40-mediated transformation of human cells, such as Notch-1 and c-Met. To test for possible differences in tissue tropism, we infected primary human mesothelial cells (HM) and primary human astrocytes (Ast) with 1ESV40 and with wtSV40 from two different SV40 strains, 776 and Baylor. All viruses transformed astrocytes, only wtSV40 transformed HM. Intracellular signaling of c-Met and Notch-1 were differently induced by these two viruses in HM and Ast. Differences in Notch-1 expression and signaling (i.e, downstream effectors, c-Myc, HEY-1, HES-1, and HEY-L) appeared to influence SV40-mediated transformation of primary astrocytes and mesothelial cells. Our results provide a biological rationale to the observation that 1ESV40 is prevalently detected in brain tumors and wtSV40 in mesotheliomas.
PMCID: PMC3092263  PMID: 21779427
SV40; 72 bp elements; mesothelial cells; astrocytes; Notch-1
22.  Ranpirnase Interferes with NF-κB Pathway and MMP9 Activity, Inhibiting Malignant Mesothelioma Cell Invasiveness and Xenograft Growth 
Genes & Cancer  2011;2(5):576-584.
The ribonuclease ranpirnase (Onconase) has been used empirically to treat malignant mesothelioma (MM) patients, and some of them had prolonged survivals. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanisms of the therapeutic function of ranpirnase in MM cells. The effects of ranpirnase were studied in vivo and in vitro on 2 MM cell lines (epithelioid REN and sarcomatoid PPM-Mill). We found that ranpirnase was able to inhibit NF-κB nuclear translocation, evaluated by cell fractionation and immunoblotting as well as by immunofluorescence. Also, MMP9 secretion by MM cells was decreased by ranpirnase treatment, as assessed by the reduction of metalloproteinase activity, evaluated by zymography on culture-conditioned media. Ranpirnase induced apoptosis of MM cells in vitro and in vivo, causing a powerful inhibition of MM tumor growth in SCID xenografts, determined by In Vivo Imaging System (IVIS) of tumor cells engineered by lentiviral transduction of the luciferase gene. Finally, mice treated with ranpirnase showed a significantly prolonged survival. Our data provide a mechanistic rationale to explain the beneficial antitumor activity observed in some patients treated with ranpirnase and demonstrate that ranpirnase interferes with the NF-κB pathway, thus influencing MM tumor cell invasiveness and survival. It is hoped that this information will also facilitate the identification of those patients who are more likely to benefit from this drug and will also open a new frontier for the use of this drug in tumor types other than MM.
PMCID: PMC3161417  PMID: 21901170
mesothelioma; ranpirnase; NF-κB; MMP9; TNF-α
23.  Hsa-Mir-29c* is Linked to the Prognosis of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma 
Cancer research  2010;70(5):1916-1924.
The inability to forecast outcomes for malignant mesothelioma prevents clinicians from providing aggressive multimodality therapy to the most appropriate individuals who may benefit from such an approach. We investigated whether specific microRNAs (miRs) could segregate a largely surgically-treated group of mesotheliomas into good or bad prognosis categories. A training set of 44 and a test set of 98 mesothelioma tumors were analyzed by a custom microRNA platform, along with 9 mesothelioma cell lines and 3 normal mesothelial lines. Functional implications as well as downstream targets of potential prognostic microRNAs were investigated. In both the training and test sets, hsa-miR-29c* was an independent prognostic factor for time to progression as well as survival after surgical cytoreduction. The miR was expressed at higher levels in epithelial mesothelioma, and the level of this miR could segregate patients with this histology into groups with differing prognosis. Increased expression of hsa-miR-29c* predicted a more favorable prognosis, and overexpression of the miR in mesothelioma cell lines resulted in significantly decreased proliferation, migration, invasion, and colony formation. Moreover, major epigenetic regulation of mesothelioma is mediated by hsa-miR-29c* and was demonstrated through downregulation of DNA methyltransferases as well as upregulation of demethylating genes. A single microRNA has the potential to be a prognostic biomarker in mesothelioma, and validation of these findings as well as investigation of its downstream targets may give insight for potential therapies in the future.
PMCID: PMC2831149  PMID: 20160038
24.  Reduction of Elevated Plasma Osteopontin Levels With Resection of Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(6):936-941.
Plasma osteopontin (OPN) levels in advanced non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) correlate with therapeutic response and survival, but the utility of plasma OPN for diagnosis and monitoring of early-stage NSCLC has not been investigated. We hypothesize that plasma OPN levels are elevated in early-stage NSCLC and decrease with resection.
Patients and Methods
Presurgery plasma OPN levels (in ng/mL) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in a discovery set of 60 patients with early-stage NSCLC and were compared with data from 56 cancer-free smokers. Presurgery OPN was validated in an independent cohort of 96 patients with resectable NSCLC. The presurgery levels in the latter cohort were compared with matched postsurgery levels. Perioperative OPN levels were correlated with demographics, tumor characteristics, and perioperative events. OPN was monitored during follow-up.
Discovery set presurgery NSCLC OPN (271 ± 31 ng/mL) was higher than smokers (40 ± 2 ng/mL; P = .001). Presurgery OPN was similar in the NSCLC validation cohort (324 ng/mL ± 20 ng/mL; P = .134). Postsurgery OPN (256 ng/mL ± 21 ng/mL) measured at mean of 9.8 weeks (range, 2 to 46 weeks) was lower than presurgery OPN (P = .005). Time from surgery significantly impacted postsurgery OPN: OPN ≤ 6 weeks postsurgery (303 n/mL ± 26 ng/mL) was higher than OPN greater than 6 weeks postsurgery (177 ng/mL ± 29 ng/mL; P = .003). Multivariate analysis noted correlations between albumin and creatinine to presurgery OPN and use of thoracotomy to postsurgery OPN. Recurrence rate was 5% at 29 weeks mean follow-up. OPN at recurrence was elevated from postsurgery nadir.
Plasma OPN levels are elevated in early-stage NSCLC. They are reduced after resection and appear to increase with recurrence. Plasma OPN may have utility as a biomarker in early-stage NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC2834433  PMID: 20085934
25.  Blocking of ERK1 and ERK2 sensitizes human mesothelioma cells to doxorubicin 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:314.
Malignant mesotheliomas (MM) have a poor prognosis, largely because of their chemoresistance to anti-cancer drugs such as doxorubicin (Dox). Here we show using human MM lines that Dox activates extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK1 and 2), causally linked to increased expression of ABC transporter genes, decreased accumulation of Dox, and enhanced MM growth. Using the MEK1/2 inhibitor, U0126 and stably transfected shERK1 and shERK2 MM cell lines, we show that inhibition of both ERK1 and 2 sensitizes MM cells to Dox.
U0126 significantly modulated endogenous expression of several important drug resistance (BCL2, ABCB1, ABCC3), prosurvival (BCL2), DNA repair (BRCA1, BRCA2), hormone receptor (AR, ESR2, PPARγ) and drug metabolism (CYP3A4) genes newly identified in MM cells. In comparison to shControl lines, MM cell lines stably transfected with shERK1 or shERK2 exhibited significant increases in intracellular accumulation of Dox and decreases in cell viability. Affymetrix microarray analysis on stable shERK1 and shERK2 MM lines showed more than 2-fold inhibition (p ≤ 0.05) of expression of ATP binding cassette genes (ABCG1, ABCA5, ABCA2, MDR/TAP, ABCA1, ABCA8, ABCC2) in comparison to shControl lines. Moreover, injection of human MM lines into SCID mice showed that stable shERK1 or shERK2 lines had significantly slower tumor growth rates in comparison to shControl lines after Dox treatment.
These studies suggest that blocking ERK1 and 2, which play critical roles in multi-drug resistance and survival, may be beneficial in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs in the treatment of MMs and other tumors.
PMCID: PMC3016286  PMID: 21159167

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